Skip to main content

Full text of "History And Human Relation"

See other formats


HISTORY   AND    HUMAN    RELATIONS

Indeed we may say that precisely because all men are
sinners and precisely because the rest of the truth about
the matter cannot be disentangled short of the Judgment
Day, the vindication of the moral element in history
neither requires nor permits the separation of the sheep
from the goats by the technical historian. Precisely
because the issue is so important and precisely because
life is a moral matter every inch of the way (while no
historian can* keep his ethical vigilance continuous or
trouble to be making, moral judgments absolutely all the
time)—precisely for these reasons the occasional dip
into moral judgments is utterly inadequate to the end it
purports to serve. The effect of the whole situation is
to make the judgments in question depend on the
historian's unconscious selection of the moments at
which he will think fit to raise the moral issue. There
have been liberal historians who would tend to fix upon
religious persecution as the topic which called for the
particular act of judgment, as though it were the test
case in ethics. It has even happened that the devout
and reasonably virtuous person, who at certain periods
would have. needed exceptional saintliness or real
originality of mind to break away from the prevalent
principles of persecution, has suffered greatly at the hands
of such historians, while the irreligious scoundrel,
pursuing toleration from worldly-mindedness and mo-
tives of redpolitik, has been able to emerge with un-
deserved honours. Moral judgments are the more apt
for this -reason to be political ones in disguise—the
historian is seeking to add a sort of supercharge to his
condemnation of a certain policy. Some Whig historians

104